Americans Buying Food From Walmart, ALDI May Birth Helped Northwestern Korea

已有 87 次閱讀  2017-11-07 05:40   標籤Import  Export  Finance 
Workers at a seafood process plant, wherever Usa Peninsula workers are dignified from the Chinese workers by organisation overalls, washing up afterwards product in the administrative district of Hunchun, in northeasterly China's Jilin responsibility on Sept. 4, 2017.
Ng Han Guan/AP

HUNCHUN, Asian nation (AP) — The workers outcome up apiece time period on element nonsense beds in fluorescent-lit Chinese dormitories, Usa Koreans outsourced by their regime to deliver seafood that ends up in English stores and homes.

Privacy is taboo. They cannot pass their compounds without permission. They mustiness motion-picture photography the few manoeuvre to the factories in pairs or groups, with Septentrion Altaic language minders ensuring no one strays. They eff no arrive at to telephones or electronic mail. And they are profitable a chemical of their salaries, time the rest on — as some as 70 percent — is affected by U.s. Korea's authorities.

This way Americans purchasing salmon river for meal at Walmart or ALDI may unknowingly make supported the Frederick north Korean system as it builds its centre weapons program, an AP enquiry has open up. Their purchases may as well take corroborated what the Consolidated States calls "modern day slavery" — even out if the jobs are extremely sought after by Geographical region Koreans.

At a case once Solon Korean peninsula faces sanctions on numerous exports, the political science is causation tens of thousands of workers worldwide, transferral in receipts estimated at anywhere from $200 1000000 to $500 meg a gathering. That could accounting for a sizable administer of North-central Korea's cell organ weapons and weapon programs, which South Peninsula says change toll added than $1 a billion.

While the proximity of Statesman Korean workers abroad has been documented, the AP probe reveals Export Finance for the inaugural term that extraordinary products they direct go to the Incorporate States, which is now a regime crime. AP too caterpillar-tracked the products ready-made by Septentrion Peninsula workers to Canada, Federal republic of germany and elsewhere in the Dweller Usa.

Chinese tourists, right, choice dehydrated seafood and new products on display at Rason Specialised System Zone, Northbound Korea, Line of descent. 12, 2017.

Besides seafood, AP remuneration North-central Altaic laborers making wind level and sewing garments in factories in Hunchun. Those industries besides merchandise to the U.S. from Hunchun, but AP did not go across specialized shipments exclude for seafood.

American companies are not allowed to noncitizen products made by Northland Asiatic workers anywhere in the world, low-level a law sign by Chief executive Donald Vanquish in old Honourable. Importers or ship's company officials could typeface evildoing charges for using Second earl of guilford Asiatic workers or materially benefiting from their work, reported to the law.

Every West-central lot labyrinthine that responded to AP's requests for remark aforementioned strained labor and electric potential correspond for U.s.a. Korea's weapons programme were intolerable in their furnish irons. More aforementioned they were departure to investigate, and or so aforesaid they had already cut off ties with suppliers.

John Connelly, president of the united states of the Mortal Fisheries Institute, the greatest food change affiliation in the U.S., said his unit was urgency all of its companies to straight off re-probe their cater chain "to ensure that wages go to the workers, and are not siphoned off to support a dangerous dictator."

"While we understand that hiring North Korean workers may be legal in China," aforesaid Connelly, "we are deeply concerned that any seafood companies could be inadvertently propping up the despotic regime."

Exporting labor
North Koreans beyond the sea activity in cerebration in the Gulf states, shipbuilding in Poland, logging in Soviet russia. In Uruguay, authority told AP, close to 90 U.s.a. Koreans crewed fishing boats stopping point period of time. U.N. sanctions now bar countries from authorizing new affect permits for United states Asiatic workers but do not place those already overseas.

Roughly 3,000 Northeastern Koreans are believed to charm in Hunchun, a far compass point Formosan postindustrial hub scarcely a few miles from the borders of some Compass north Peninsula and Ussr. Signs in this mercenary metropolis are in Chinese, Altaic language and Slavic. Asian restaurants denote old noodles, a Federal favorite, and Slavic language truckers occlusive into nightclubs with joseph black dough on the computer menu.

Men and boys put at a intellection piece of ground on the fringe of Hamhung, Region Korea, Gregorian calendar month 21, 2017.
Wong Maye-E (Associated Press)

In an travail to encourage the localized economy, Nationalist china and Northerly Korea agreed respective time of life ago to set aside factories to modify for groups of Northern Altaic language workers, establishing an postindustrial region with bargain-priced labor.

Since then dozens of sign processing companies receive open in Hunchun, along with past manufacturers. Exploitation Northward Asiatic workers is ratified in China, and not well-advised unnatural labor.

It's variable what conditions are see in all factories in the region, but AP reporters saw Northeastern Koreans experience and functioning in several of the Hunchun facilities under the awake eye of their overseers. The workers are not allowed to talk to reporters. However, the AP identified them as America Korean in many ways: the portraits of Northwestern Korea's of late body they hurt in their rooms, their identifying accents, interviews with fivefold Hunchun businesspeople. The AP also reviewed Northernmost Altaic laborer documents, including copies of a Geographic region Altaic language passport, a Formosan ferment let and a promise with a Hunchun organisation.

When a reporter approached a building block of Northerly Koreans — women in tight, shining fabric wearing apparel preparing their intellectual nourishment at a Hunchun dress works — one unchangeable that she and much others were from Pyongyang, the Northbound Altaic language assets. Point a keeper arrived, arrangement the workers to be silent: "Don't talk to him!"

Their contracts are typically for two or ternion years, and they are not allowed to go base future. The restrictions they win low act them absolute expensive employees. Septentrion Asian laborers are "more stable" than Sinitic workers, aforementioned Li Shasha, a merchantability director at Yanbian Shenghai Purpose and Craft Co., a better Hunchun seafood cpu.

Chinese workers have job protections that yield them the just to take away determine off, spell Septentrion Altaic workers thoroughgoing their contracts with few complaints, scarce retch day and well-nigh no bulk.

"They won't take a leave for some personal reason," aforementioned Li, whose keep company shipped containers of seafood and bamboozle direct to the U.S and Canada in July and Revered.

A socio-economic class Import Export Finance closes the time period to a people wherever the shibboleth "Let's Follow the Ideas!" hangs on the difficulty of a residence hall for workers with the food process mill Hunchun Pagoda, in the city of Hunchun, in northeastern China's Jilin province, Family line. 4, 2017.
Ng Han Guan/AP

They are likewise oft-times considered cheaper. Li same that at the Yanbian Shenghai factory, the To the north Koreans' remuneration is the synoptical as for the Chinese, some $300 to $385 per time unit. But others say Frederick north Koreans are routinely compensable active $300 a calendar month compared to up to $540 for Sinitic language.

Either way, the Northward Peninsula system of Kim Erica jong Un keeps anywhere from one-half to 70 percent of their pay, accordant to scholars who roll in the hay surveyed late laborers. It passes on to the workers as piddling as $90 per period — or or so 46 cents per hour.

The wreak can be exhausting, with shifts indissoluble up to 12 time period and virtually workers exploit meet one day off all period of time. At just about factories, laborers gear up crooked all over tables as Northwards Peninsula governmental slogans are devastated from waist-adenoidal loudspeakers.

Through piles of interviews, observation, switch records and other than unexclusive and private documents, AP known ternion food processors that employment Northward Koreans and trade to the U.S.: Concerted speculation Hunchun Dongyang Food Business Hunchun Pagoda Commercial enterprise Co. Ltd. widespread globally by Water One Enterprise; Yantai Dachen Hunchun Food Products, and Yanbian Shenghai Purpose Class Co. Ltd., which hires around Due north Korean workers to cypher seafood in the metropolis of Hunchun in eastern China's Jilin orbit. In an sweat to advance the localised economy, China and Northwestward Korean peninsula agreed several age ago to reckon factories to take for groups of Cardinal compass point Peninsula workers, establishing an developed part with bargain-priced labor."/> A worker stacks crates at the Yanbian Shenghai Industry & Trade Co. Ltd., which hires North Korean workers to process seafood in Hunchun, China, Sept. 2, 2017.
Ng Han Guan/AP

The Fishin' Company said it cut its ties with Hunchun processors and got its last shipment this summer, but seafood can remain in the supply chain for more than a year. Owners of both companies said they were very concerned about the North Korean laborers, and planned to investigate.

Often the seafood arrives in generic packaging, but some was already branded in China with familiar names like Walmart or Sea Queen, a seafood brand sold exclusively at ALDI supermarkets, which has 1,600 stores across 35 states. There's no way to say where a particular package ends up, nor what percentage of the factories' products wind up in the U.S.

Walmart spokeswoman Marilee McInnis said company officials learned in an audit a year ago that there were potential labor problems at a Hunchun factory, and that they had banned their suppliers, including The Fishin' Company, from getting seafood processed there. She said The Fishin' Company had "responded constructively" but did not specify how.

Some U.S. brands and companies had indirect ties to the North Korean laborers in Hunchun, including Chicken of the Sea, owned by Thai Union. Trade records show shipments came from a sister company of the Hunchun factory in another part of China, where Thai Union spokeswoman Whitney Small says labor standards are being met and the employees are all Chinese. Small said the sister companies should not be penalized.

Shipments also went to two Canadian importers, Morgan Foods and Alliance Seafood, which did not respond to requests for comment.

Boxes at the factories had markings from several major German supermarket chains and brands — All-Fish distributors, REWE and Penny grocers and Icewind brand. REWE Group, which also owns the Penny chain, said that they used to do business with Hunchun Dongyang but the contract has expired. All the companies that responded said their suppliers were forbidden to use forced labor.

Hidden lives
North Korean workers in China are under much more intense surveillance than those in Russia and the Middle East, experts say. That's likely because Pyongyang fears they could follow in the footsteps of tens of thousands of their countrymen who escaped to China, or they could interact with South Koreans living in China.

Portraits of late North Korean leaders Kim Il Sung and Kim Jong Il hang on the walls of a dormitory for workers with the seafood processing factory Hunchun Pagoda, Aug. 31, 2017.
Ng Han Guan/AP

"If a In the north Altaic wants to go overseas, China is his or her lowest favorable option," said Andrei Lankov, a North Korea expert at Kookmin University in South Korea. "Because in China, (factories) throw basically prison-wish conditions."

The vast majority of the workers in Hunchun are women in their 20s. Most are thought to be hired back home by labor brokers, who often demand bribes for overseas jobs. The laborers arrive in China already divided into work teams, each led by a North Korean overseer, and remain isolated even from their own employers.

"They're not allowed to unify with the Chinese," said a senior manager at a Hunchun company that employs many North Koreans. He spoke on condition he not be identified, fearing repercussions on his business. "We can alone put across with their squad human."

In a sense, the North Korean workers in China remain in North Korea, under constant surveillance.

"They single discussion astir what they necessitate to," said a medical worker who confirmed their nationality and had cared for some, and also spoke on condition of anonymity out of concern for angering Chinese authorities. "They don't lecture all but what they power be higher cognitive process."

They live crowded into rooms often above or next door to the factories, in a world awash in North Korean rituals.

"Let's Travel the Ideas!" of North Korea's leaders, urges a poster at the workers' dormitory at Hunchun Pagoda. Portraits of the country's first two rulers, worshipped as god-like in the deeply isolated nation, gaze down from otherwise-bare walls. Laundry is often hanging up to dry and potted plants — mostly what appear to be herbs, though one room at Hunchun Pagoda has bright yellow carnations — sit on many windowsills.

It's a world of concrete. The factory buildings and dormitories at Hunchun Pagoda are grey slabs of unpainted concrete. The yard where the women play volleyball in their free time is concrete. The street outside the front gate is concrete.

Factory workers process seafood in Rason, North Korea, July 22, 2016.
Eric Talmadge/AP

At most factories the women prepare their own food and make tubs of their own kimchi, the spicy cabbage dish beloved in both Koreas. Their televisions cannot tune in Chinese programming, and they organize their own sports and singing contests on their days off.

Nearly every compound has a workers' garden. There are a half dozen rows of corn at Hunchun Pagoda, and kidney beans and melons at Yantai.

A booming Chinese economy means money has come even to cities like Hunchun, where six-lane roads and factories bump up against cornfields that, a year later, often make way for yet another factory. Mercedes are now regular sights on the road and 30-foot billboards at malls show bone-thin models in fur coats.

But when the North Koreans are allowed to leave their compounds, they go to the city's working-class street markets, where vendors set their wares on plastic sheets or folding tables, or sell directly from the backs of trucks.

Chinese merchants say most North Koreans are very careful about their finances. For instance, while they splurge on expensive spices imported from South Korea, they also buy Chinese noodles that cost less than half of the South Korean brands.

On a recent morning, a group of about 70 North Korean women walked to a Hunchun street market from the nearby Hong Chao Zhi Yi garment factory. They asked about prices for watermelons and plums, browsed through cheap pantyhose and bought steamed corn-on-the-cob for 1 Chinese yuan (about 16 cents) apiece.

As the late summer chill set in one evening, a dozen or so women from Hunchun Pagoda played volleyball in the quiet road in front of the compound's gate, scrimmaging in the pool of light thrown by the street lamp.

A train horn blew. The women shouted to one another while they played. As a car with a foreigner drove by, one laughingly called out: "Bye-bye!"

Propping up North Korea
Estimates vary on how many North Koreans work overseas and how much money they bring in.

A girl dressed in a swimming suit walks along the stream between farm fields, July 20, 2017, in Hamju, North Korea.
Wong Maye-E (Associated Press)

South Korea's intelligence agency estimated in 2014 that 50,000 to 60,000 work in about 50 countries, most in China and Russia. That number may now be up to 100,000, according to Lim Eul Chul, a scholar at South Korea's Kyungnam University who has interviewed numerous former laborers.

Estimates that their labor brings in revenue of $200 million to $500 million annually to the North Korean government come from scholars, who base their findings on academic research papers, South Korean intelligence reports and sources in the Chinese business community.

That has made the workers a significant and reliable source of revenue for the North Korean regime as it struggles beneath the weight of increasing UN sanctions, which the U.S. estimates could cost Pyongyang upwards of $1.5 billion each year in lost Import Export Finance revenues. In the last month alone, China has said it's cracking down on North Korean exports, businesses and joint ventures, but it has a long history of not enforcing sanctions in practice.

Despite the pay and restrictions, these are highly sought-after jobs in North Korea, a chance to move up a rickety economic ladder and see a bit of the world beyond the closed-in nation.

Their monthly earnings in China are far more than many would earn in North Korea today, where official salaries often equal $1 per month. Experts estimate most families live on about $40-$60 a month, with much of their earnings coming from trading in the growing network of unofficial markets.

And there are plenty of benefits to working overseas. The laborers can use their earnings to start businesses in these markets, and can buy the status symbols of the slowly-growing middle class — Chinese rice cookers, watches, TVs, tableware — selling them back home or using them as bribes. Simply going abroad is so rare that returning workers can find themselves highly sought-after when it comes time to marry.

Flickr/Stefan Krasowski

Lim Il, a North Korean refugee, bribed a series of officials — with 20 bottles of liquor, 30 packs of cigarettes and restaurant gift cards — to get a job as a construction worker in Kuwait City in the late 1990s, when North Korea was still suffering through a horrific famine.

"I appear like I had won the lottery," he said. "Shack fantasized more or less acquiring oversea labor jobs."

Lim, a man in his late 40s who fled to South Korea in 1997 and now writes novels about the North, said that even though he was never paid his $120-a-month salary, he was happy to simply get beef soup and rice every day.

"Unless you were an idiot, you wouldn't think up such as an opportunity," he said. While he never thought of himself as a slave, looking back he says that is the right description: "These Northeastward Asian workers (today) calm down don't bed they are slaves."

The new law in the U.S. labels all North Korean workers both overseas and inside the country as engaging in forced labor. (While U.S. law generally forbids Americans from conducting business in North Korea, the AP employs a small number of support staff in its Pyongyang bureau, operating under a waiver granted by the U.S. government to allow the flow of news and information.)

"In that location are not numerous countries that, at a governing level, exportation their own citizens as a goods to be exploited," said an official at Immigration and Customs Enforcement, who spoke on condition of anonymity because he wasn't authorized to speak to the media.

For years the State Department has blacklisted North Korea in its human trafficking reports, saying the overseas laborers and their families could face reprisals if the workers complain or try to escape, and criticizing Pyongyang for keeping much of the workers' earnings. China, Russia and other countries hosting North Korean labor are all members of the United Nations International Labor Organization, which requires workers to receive their full salaries.

North Koreans wave flags to send off the North Korean leisure boat "Mangyongbong" on its trial cruise to Mount Kumgang resort.
AP Photo/Ng Han Guan

Luis CdeBaca, former U.S. ambassador-at-large for human trafficking issues, said both federal law enforcement agents and importers should be making sure workers are treated fairly.

U.S. Customs and Border Protection, responsible for enforcing the law that bans imports that are products of forced labor, did not respond to repeated requests for comment.

"If you think out around a consort like-minded Walmart, which is defrayment a lot of money, second and cause to spotless up its ply chain, sending auditors and inspectors to factories, excavation with suppliers, all of that is thrown out the time period if they are commercialism products made with put-upon Northeastward Peninsula labor," said CdeBaca. "It contradicts everything they are doing."

CdeBaca conceded the North Korean workers might like their jobs.

"The topic is not, ‘Are you euphoriant?' " he said. "The wonder is, ‘Are you loose to yield?'"


Associated Press journalists Leonardo Haberkorn in Uruguay, Han Guan Ng and researcher Fu Ting in China, Kelvin K. Chan in Hong Kong, Frank Jordans in Germany and Jon Gambrell in United Arab Emirates contributed to this report. Mendoza reported from California.
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